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It's no secret that food plays a pivotal role in major holidays. There's the obvious Thanksgiving turkey and Easter ham, an array of traditional family foods (and cookies) for Christmas and Hanukkah, and barbecues celebrating the pillars of summer — Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day.

For Mother's Day, there's brunch.

There's no denying the holiday's special place on the food calendar. Case in point: the many local restaurants and bakeries rolling out the red carpet with spreads befitting the guest of honor. But some of us choose to mark the occasion with spreads of our own, celebrating not only mothers and grandmothers, but also those who made us moms.

It's a chance to cater to our own whims and creativity, sans expectations. If brunch is the go-to meal, these four recipes — two out-of-the-box salads and two vegetable sides — make a splashy addition to the egg-centric midday meal. They're also worthy accompaniments to your choice of grilled protein, turning a backyard barbecue into an event. All culled from recent cookbooks, the recipes are versatile, creative and bring out the best in what's around them — just like a mom.

This Little Gem salad is topped with a shallot vinaigrette and savory granola.
This Little Gem salad is topped with a shallot vinaigrette and savory granola.

Ashley Sears, Provided

Little Gem and Savory Granola Salad

Serves 4 to 6.

The vibrant shallot vinaigrette in this seemingly simple salad pairs perfectly with the crunchy greens. And the savory granola, which you should always keep on hand, provides crunch like a crouton. You could use another green for this, but little gem has the perfect amount of nooks to scoop up all the delicious toppings. From "Come Hungry: Salads, Meals, and Sweets for People Who Live to Eat," by Melissa Ben-Ishay, co-founder of Baked by Melissa. (William Morrow, 2024).

For the salad:

• 2 small heads little gem lettuce

• 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced

• 3 radishes, thinly sliced

• 1 shallot, thinly sliced

• Savory Granola, for serving (see recipe)

For the shallot vinaigrette:

• 1 small shallot, finely chopped

• 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

• 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

• Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tbsp.)

• 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 tbsp. rice vinegar

• 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast


Cut the ends off the little gem lettuce. Combine the lettuce, cucumbers, radishes and sliced shallot in a large bowl, reserving some of the veggies for garnish.

Prepare the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the shallots, mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, rice vinegar and nutritional yeast until smooth.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. To serve, garnish with the reserved veggies. Top with savory granola.

Savory Granola

Makes 3 cups.

From "Come Hungry: Salads, Meals, and Sweets for People Who Live to Eat," by Melissa Ben-Ishay (William Morrow, 2024).

• 1 1/2 c. rolled oats

• 1/2 c. pumpkin seeds

• 1/2 c. sliced almonds

• 1/2 c. puffed quinoa

• 2 tbsp. sesame seeds

• 2 egg whites

• 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 tbsp. garlic powder

• 1 tsp. fine sea salt

• 1 tsp. dried oregano

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the oats, pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, puffed quinoa and sesame seeds in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, oregano and pepper. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until the dry ingredients are completely coated.

Spread the mixture on the baking sheet and flatten with a spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes. Stir the granola around with the spatula and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until the granola is golden brown and toasted.

Let the granola cool completely before storing in an airtight container at room temperature. It should stay good for about 3 weeks.

Roasted Carrots with Avocados and Furikake Seeds was inspired by a dish in the New York restaurant ABC Kitchen.
Roasted Carrots with Avocados and Furikake Seeds was inspired by a dish in the New York restaurant ABC Kitchen.

Johnny Miller, Provided

Roasted Carrots with Avocados and Furikake Seeds

Serves 4.

The salad that inspired this recipe comes from a beloved New York City restaurant, ABC Kitchen. At the time, the restaurant was helmed by talented chef Dan Kluger, who turned out vegetable-forward cooking when "vegetable-forward" wasn't even a term. The combination of roasted and fresh citrus juices acts as a bright foil to the earthy sweetness of carrots. Crunchy seeds and furikake deliver delightful texture and umami, while yogurt offers cooling tang. The ingredient list may seem long, but comprises mostly spices and seasonings, which you can adjust to what you have on hand. The recipe makes more citrus juice than you'll need; reserve the remainder for more dressing to drizzle on salads and vegetables. Note: Find furikake in the international section of supermarkets or Asian markets. From "Hot Sheet" by Olga Massov and Sanaë Lemoine (Harvest, 2024).

For the furikake seeds:

• 3 tbsp. sunflower seeds

• 3 tbsp. pumpkin seeds

• 3 tbsp. furikake, plus more to taste (see Note)

For the citrusy carrots:

• 3 medium garlic cloves

• 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed

• 1 tsp. fennel seeds

• 1 tsp. coriander seeds

• 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp. dried

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

• 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

• 1 lb. medium carrots, scrubbed

• 2 oranges, halved

• 2 lemons, halved

For serving:

• 1/4 c. sour cream or whole-milk Greek yogurt

• Flesh of 1 avocado, thinly sliced

• 3 handfuls of sprouts or microgreens, optional


Make the furikake seeds: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

On a 9- by 13-inch sheet pan, spread the sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a single layer. Toast, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly toasted and golden; don't let the seeds brown much. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the furikake, and set aside.

Leave the oven on for the carrots.

Make the carrots: Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a mini food processor, combine the garlic, salt, fennel, coriander, thyme, black pepper and pepper flakes. Pulse until the mixture looks roughly chopped, then add 1/4 cup of the oil and the vinegar and process until the marinade is uniform. (If you don't have a mini food processor, finely chop the aromatics until almost uniform, then whisk together with the oil and vinegar in a small bowl until combined.)

Arrange the carrots in a single layer on the prepared sheet pan. Spoon the marinade all over the carrots and roll them around until well coated.

Arrange 2 of the orange halves and 2 of the lemon halves over the carrots, cut side down. Roast for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the carrots are golden brown.

Transfer the carrots to a large serving platter and the roasted citrus to a plate and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Squeeze the roasted orange and lemon halves into a small jar, then squeeze in the remaining fresh citrus. You should have between 1/2 and 2/3 cup of blended citrus juice. Pour 1/4 cup of the blended juice into a measuring cup (reserve the rest for another use; it can be refrigerated for up to 4 days). Season the juice to taste with salt and pepper, and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until emulsified. Drizzle half of the dressing over the carrots, reserving the rest for serving.

To serve: Spread the sour cream or yogurt on a large plate and top with the carrots, avocado and sprouts, if using. Drizzle everything with the remaining dressing, sprinkle with the furikake seeds, and serve.

The caper-raisin relish adds a burst of savory-sweet flavor to asparagus.
The caper-raisin relish adds a burst of savory-sweet flavor to asparagus.

Christine Han, Provided

Charred Asparagus with Caper-Raisin Relish

Serves 6.

Capers and raisins combine to make a quick, chunky vinaigrette to asparagus that is salty-sweet and packed with flavor. Pine nuts add crunch, and are a pretty final touch. If your family hasn't quite made it into caper territory yet, simply serve the asparagus undressed for them and keep more of the slurpable relish for yourself. From "Big Bites," by Kat Ashmore. (Rodale, 2024)

• 2 lb. thick asparagus (about 2 bunches)

• Extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

• 2 tbsp. coarsely chopped (drained and rinsed) capers

• 1/4 c. golden raisins

• 2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

• 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided

• Freshly cracked black pepper

• 1/4 c. toasted pine nuts


Rinse the asparagus and pat it dry. Cut off the woody ends and discard.

To make the relish, in a small bowl combine 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the balsamic, capers, raisins and parsley. Season the dressing to taste with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and a pinch of pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the broiler to high and insert a large, heavy rimmed baking sheet. This will heat up as the oven does, so the asparagus will start cooking immediately when it hits the pan.

Add the asparagus, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper to a large bowl and toss. Transfer the asparagus to the hot pan and broil until tender and well charred, shaking occasionally, 4 to 8 minutes total. Place the charred asparagus on a serving platter and drizzle the relish over the top. Scatter with the toasted pine nuts and serve warm or at room temperature.

Spinach and mozzarella are tossed with a vinaigrette before being topped with caramelized grapefruit, pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Spinach and mozzarella are tossed with a vinaigrette before being topped with caramelized grapefruit, pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds.

, Provided

Spinach, Mozzarella and Caramelized Pink Grapefruit Salad

Serves 4.

If you can get buffalo mozzarella rather than regular mozzarella, it gives this salad a really luxurious finish. Buffalo mozzarella is creamier, softer and more flavorful, but also a little more expensive. From "Champneys: The Cookbook," written to mark 100 years of the U.K.'s Champneys luxury spas (Aster, 2024).

For the salad:

• 1 pink grapefruit

• 5 1/2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds

• 1 pomegranate

• 2/3 c. mozzarella, ideally buffalo mozzarella, see Note

• 3 1/3 c. baby spinach

For the dressing:

• 2 3/4 tbsp. flaxseed oil

• 1 tsp. ground cardamom seeds

• Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Peel and segment the pink grapefruit. Grill or blowtorch the segments until caramelized. Set aside.

Toast the pumpkin seeds for a couple of minutes in a dry frying pan, then set aside.

Remove the seeds from the pomegranate, keeping any juice for the dressing. Cut or tear the mozzarella. In a large bowl, toss mozzarella with the spinach and pomegranate seeds.

In a small bowl, whisk the flaxseed oil with any pomegranate juice you saved, the ground cardamom, lemon zest and juice and season to taste. Add to the spinach-mozzarella mixture, and toss to combine.

Serve the salad on a platter topped with the caramelized grapefruit segments and sprinkled with the toasted pumpkin seeds.